Anyone else who’s even now just recovering from the Say-Goodbye-to-Year-6 end of term ceremony?
Ours didn’t start emotional, in our little country church. Not really. (I’m used to North London, where the parents always watch their kids, as if they’re at the O2, watching Beyonce. Country people aren’t like that. Doesn’t matter who’s on stage, we stare, as if we’re in a market, watching a bloke, who’s saying something about cows. )
And yet it’s terribly moving.
The youngest ones chant a rhyme to the leavers: “We know that we will miss you/ But we say goodbye.” Year 1 hold up portraits of them. Woodpeckers Class, show lovely pictures of the
leavers, all broadcast, to music, on the wall of the church. They include predictions: “Woodpeckers think Mike will be a rock musician, who is nine foot tall.” Adjectives fire up, that Woodpeckers associate with Mike: “Epic, funny, kind.” Pictures appear too – our heroes walking to school, in the first days of Reception – and as I look up at them – broadcast on the wall like legends – I realise how well I’ve got to know them, how much I like them.
And like all of the parents present, I am particularly aware of two in particular – Sarah and Reuben, who lost their mother (Gisela) at the start of the year. It’s been such a delicate year. We’ve all felt incredibly protective of the two children – we’ve been glad to exchange friendly words at the gate – at the same time, we tried not to fuss, or to stare.
But as Year 6 stand to sing the Year 6 song, we can’t help but watch. Gisela had such a buoyant spirit; I can’t believe she’s gone. And as the song starts, I’m worried Sarah will be thinking that too. I’m also, in truth, concerned for the song. The first singers are the Year 6 boys, who may – as predictions said – one day become Top Gear presenters, and nine foot tall musicians. They are definitely, though, not singers.
But Sarah is.
Her father is a musician, and Gisela had a magnificent way about her: she had a lightness about life; it amused her. She was particularly interested in religion, which amused her too. She didn’t believe in miracles; her religion was practical. “I just try to… focus on the moment,” she’d say.
And actually as Sarah waits for her cue in the song, she’s doing exactly that: she’s is concentrating on her song. But then her cue comes, and she smiles radiantly as she sings: “Feel the rain on your skin/ No one can else can feel it for you / no one else, no one else / can speak the words on your lips / Drench yourself in words unspoken / live your life with arms wide open…”
It’s a great chorus. It’s defiantly optimistic. And Sarah is happily singing it, with a confidence, which gradually spreads to the whole of Year 6, who finishes it acapella, chanting out loud: “Feel the rain on your skin / no one else can feel it for you…”
There’s Beyonce style applause at the end.
At the back, we’re standing to our feet and we’re cheering. In truth, the singing was only so-so, but some of us haven’t cheered in years, and besides it’s the last chance we might get to give those kids some love, so we just stand and cheer like fools. (I’m really feeling overcome at this point. I’m actually terrified I might cry. But then my new country instincts kick in, coupled with my ancient boyish ones, and I tell myself: You cannot be crying. Get it together. Now.)
But then luckily I am distracted from the intense emotion, as the head stands to make her end of term sermon… (It’s not her fault. She’s a great head; she can’t be a Great Entertainer). But her main problem is she’s doing the sermon, the Take Home Message, when Sarah – channelling the spirit of her wise mother, no less – has already done that.
What do you do when bad things happen? You feel the rain on your skin, and when your cue comes, you sing.